SPCO deadline passes: board to discuss orchestra future tomorrow

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After a day of apparently frenetic behind the scenes discussions the deadline to save the remainder of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra season has passed at 5 p.m. and it appears the effort has failed.

It was a whiplash day of letters and phone calls flying among the two sides and St Paul Mayor Chris Coleman who for the last three weeks has been trying to facilitate a deal to save the season.

Just before 8 am when the musicians announced they were rejecting a management proposal issued last Friday.

In a letter to Mayor Coleman the musicians said none of the changes in the revised contract proposal offered last week resolve the concerns musicians have with the offer. Those include how to deal with broadcast and Internet usage of SPCO performances, which has become a major bone of contention involving the national union, the American Federation of Musicians

Musician negotiator Lynn Erickson said she was worried by they prospect of a loss of the rest of the season.

“It’s a huge deal,” she said. “We really want to be back playing concerts and we had hoped that we would be able to come to an agreement by today and we worked really hard to come to ‘yes’ but we are still not there. And I think that management should look at our proposal from April 2nd and give us a concrete counterproposal.”

However management very quickly rejected that proposal last week, and again today because management says it actually adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of the contract which it can’t afford.

In Mayor Coleman’s response to the musicians sent around noon he asked the musicians to reconsider the management proposal they had just rejected. In his letter he went through the musicians issues one by one, and said he believed the proposal addresses all of them satisfactorily.

He concluded: “None of your remaining concerns…rise to the level of importance that would be worth jeopardizing the long-term viability of this orchestra. I urge all the musicians to work together to save this Saint Paul treasure. ”

Both the musicians and management say they are grateful to the Mayor for getting involved in the discussion, and getting more proposals on the table, however it seems his efforts were not enough.

Interim SPCO president Dobson West says SPCO management will now begin serious discussions about what happens next.

“We are having a board meeting tomorrow at which we will be in executive session discussing the future of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra,” he said. “As you know the issues go well beyond simply the cancellation of the balance of the season.”

West says that because of the dispute the 2013-2014 season has not been announced yet, and usually by this point in the year they would have been selling subscriptions and tickets. He says fundraising is taking a hit, and they may have to look at perhaps even suspending operations.

West said this has been such an unusual dispute with its twists and turns we have learned to never say never, and there may be a way to save the season. However he says it does look bad.